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Badger cull 'essential' to help cattle industry fight bovine TB threat

By Western Daily Press  |  Posted: October 10, 2012

Badgers
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Bovine TB poses the “main threat” to Britain’s cattle industry – making the controversial West badger cull essential, Owen Paterson said yesterday.

The new Environment Secretary also used his Tory conference speech to pledge more help for rural businesses and better mobile phone and internet coverage in the countryside.

Mr Paterson, who was promoted in last month’s Cabinet reshuffle, made his keynote speech just before Queen guitarist Brian May arrived in Birmingham to step up his campaign against the cull.

The Government has decided on pilot schemes to cull badgers in Somerset and Gloucestershire, amid widespread opposition.

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But Prime Minister David Cameron told the Western Daily Press this week how it was the right policy, a stance reinforced by Mr Paterson yesterday.

He said: “The main threat to our cattle industry comes from bovine TB; last year, TB led to the slaughter of 26,000 cattle at a cost of nearly £100 million.

“It is a cost that will rise to £1 billion over the next decade if this disease is left unchecked. Let’s be clear, bovine TB imposes a shattering financial and emotional cost on our farmers, their families and communities.

“This will only get worse if we continue the cowardly policy of inaction pursued by Labour in government.”

Mr Paterson told activists there was no easy solution, and while they were spending £15.5 million on research into vaccines, any breakthrough would be some way off.

“We must, therefore, learn from the experience of other countries. We have to use every tool at our disposal. That’s why we’re trialling a badger cull. We need healthy wildlife living alongside healthy cattle.

“Only if we work to eradicate the reservoir of TB in our badgers, will we have the strong and prosperous dairy industry the public wishes to see.”

Mr Paterson said the coalition – including his Agriculture Minister David Heath, Liberal Democrat Somerton & Frome MP – was reversing 13 years of “shameful neglect” of the countryside under Labour.

He urged people to buy British to help the food supply chain sector that supported 3.7 million jobs and contributed £90 billion a year to the economy.

“Just as we got behind Team GB this summer, we must get behind our farmers; by buying British, we can support our producers – and enjoy some of the best dairy products in the world.”

And he pledged to help the 500,000 business in rural England to grow, including by harnessing improvements in technology.

“Mobile phone coverage in rural areas is dire. The countryside must be the only place in the UK where our mobile phone conversations end with the word ‘Hello’?

“How many times have you lost the signal during an important call? How can you hope to run a business without reliable reception?”

Mr Paterson said they would keep working on mobile phone networks, and were investing £530 million on rolling out high-speed broadband to rural communities.

He also confirmed his commitment to flood protection, and insisted local communities must have a say in developments such as wind farms.

Mary Creagh, Labour’s Shadow Environment Secretary, told the Western Daily Press: “The Tory-led Government is pressing ahead with a badger cull despite their own official advice that it will cost more than it saves, put a huge strain on the police, and will spread bovine TB in the short term as badgers are disturbed by the shooting.

“Not a single scientist who participated in Labour’s badger cull trials has voiced support for the Government’s plans. It is a huge shame that the Government cut five of Labour’s six badger vaccine trials.”

“The Government should follow the lead of the Welsh Assembly Government and go all out on vaccination and biosecurity.”

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  • Clued-Up  |  October 10 2012, 9:17PM

    @grannyonline1 "[the cull backers] are hiding something". I'm always very reluctant to assume conspiracies are responsible for initiatives that I think ill-advised but as regards the badger cull, I'm wondering. A surprisingly large number of those backing the badger cull - both as figure heads (eg Paterson) and as online posters - are closely connected to the pro-hunting and shooting lobbies. Very few people are engaged in hunting and shooting so the dominance of these individuals in the pro-cull movement is a significant matter. I've noticed the pro-cull minority posting on "Guardian" constantly quote from blatantly pro hunting web sites (the posters misleadingly claim their information is from nationally respected, qualified naturalists, veterinarians and scientists with particular expertise as regards bTB and badgers). Any unbiased person with average common sense can see the holes in the arguments and figures presented on these sites so one wonders why these posters apparently can't.

    |   2
  • BrockStripes  |  October 10 2012, 4:42PM

    "Just as we got behind Team GB this summer, we must get behind our farmers; by buying British, we can support our producers – and enjoy some of the best dairy products in the world." Just as we got behind Team GB this summer, now we must get behind TEAM BADGER, and support those farmers who do not feel the need to resort to bloodshed in order to keep their cattle healthy!

    |   9
  • 2ladybugs  |  October 10 2012, 2:34PM

    Quote:- E-Badger on the 2/10 quoted a pro-vaccination letter from 6 vets published in last week's VeterinaryTimes. In today's issue a Devon cattle vet points out that of the 6 signatories, 4 are small animal vets, 1 specialises in horses, and 1 is not practising at all. All are based in the South East. The letter ends with the observation that it is very easy to have a view, if you are removed from the grim reality of bTB.

    |   -6
  • E_Badger  |  October 10 2012, 2:07PM

    Charles can copy and past from one Vet from 2009 and yet I can link to six vets from 2012 with an opposing opinion against culling. Enough qualifications here for you Charles? Veterinarians Against the Cull http://tinyurl.com/8bhe5jb

    |   7
  • Syrrets  |  October 10 2012, 11:42AM

    This is just a tissue of lies from Owen Paterson - the BCG cattle vaccine is available NOW (together with DIVA test) and it is sufficiently effective to control bTB, especially if applied to neonates. It is only EU bureaucracy that is preventing its deployment. I thought this government was supposed to be against 'red-tape'? Apparently not when it comes to slaughtering our wildlife. The badger cull is misguided and ill-thought out, and runs against virtually all scientific and expert wildlife opinion. It will not make any significant contribution to the elimination of bTB in cattle. The cull should be stopped and vaccination introduced, NOW! If the cull goes ahead I will be less likely to "buy British", and I certainly will not buy dairy produce from the cull areas. And there will be very little chance that I will vote for the duplicitous David Heath (my MP) or the Liberal Democrats again - I feel badly betrayed by their willingness to kowtow to regressive Conservatives like Owen Paterson.

    |   18
  • Charlespk  |  October 10 2012, 11:32AM

    Of course farmers will have to be paid enough to at least cover the cost of production, but bTB has to be defeated if ever we are to have any chance of becoming self-sufficient in food, as we move further towards the difficult challenges this nation, indeed this whole planet is facing.

    |   -14
  • Charlespk  |  October 10 2012, 11:27AM

    When are you going to start listening to the people on the ground who know about these things? Email received December 30 2009 from. Dr Ueli Zellweger MRCVS GST TVL Somerset. After some 30 years as a country vet for cattle mainly I feel entitled to comment. . When a vet surgeon is called out to treat a cow or a whole herd of cattle it is vital that he finds the real cause of the trouble. Quite often this is an infection by a species of bacterium, virus, a mycosis or when there are parasites involved. It is common that there is a mix or environmental influences e.g. a draught in the calf shed. . It is the skill and experience of a successful vet to find the real diagnose and to treat or eliminate the very cause. Infections by bacteria are normally treated with antibiotics and disinfectants and subsequent preventing methods. If an infection is treated soon after starting success is most of the time quick and guaranteed. . Not so easy to treat are chronic infections. Bovine Tuberculosis (bTB) is in 99% of all cases a very chronic disease, mainly because of the extremely slow multiplying of these bacteria. Apart from bTB there are quite a number of other strains causing Tuberculosis like the human strain, the strain causing leprosy, the avian strain, Mycobacterium paratuberculosis (Johns disease) and others which are even harmless. There are a lot of vaccines against all kind of infections on the market. They normally give quite reliable results if administered correctly and in healthy animals (and humans). For Tuberculosis the common vaccine is the BCG which was found some 80 years ago and has been used to vaccinate healthy babies mainly. . BCG does not prevent an infection like all other vaccines; it just keeps it from becoming generalized, thus reducing the risk that the bacteria are swept into various other organs followed by massive excretion (coughing, urine, faeces, milk etc). There is scientific evidence that the efficiency of BCG is not more than 50 % and in a lot of countries it is therefore not used any longer. Any animal, group or herd of with bTB is a 'focus' and as long as such a focus is not eliminated it is a high risk for further infections. It is outrageous that these aspects are widely ignored by DEFRA for years now with absolutely no end in sight. In 2008 over 40,000 head of cattle reacting to bTB were slaughtered (10 % annual increase to be expected ) and nobody knows how many 10,000s of badgers and their setts are infected. Thus the infection within this most relevant wildlife reservoir is permanently growing including all its risks of infecting further cattle, other farm animals, pets and humans. Vaccinating badgers cannot be the solution for there are locally far too many badgers and setts infected and vaccinating cattle with BCG is in my view absolutely contraindicated for the only way of diagnosing bTB in cattle will be seriously compromised. DEFRA thinks to manage to develop a DIVA test thus being able to differentiate between a skin reaction caused by bTB and the one caused by BCG. It is unclear if such a test ever will reach permission or Europeanwide approbation; however there is a high risk that some countries will decide at some stage that they are not interested in any English beef products any longer when it cannot be guaranteed that there is no bTB. The routine bTB skin test alone in many cases is unreliable enough ( inconclusive or even false negative results ) and the Gamma Interferon bloodtest - apart from being expensive - is quite often hampered by some other influences. There definitely is no need of another uncertainty in this whole issue. It is horror for me to see how things are going the wrong way and every month some hundred more farms are starting suffering dramatically. It is not 5 minutes before noon to rethink this whole approach by DEFRA - politically steered as it is - NO it is half past noon and even with a quick U turn the future of battling bTB looks bleak.

    |   -13
  • Charlespk  |  October 10 2012, 11:26AM

    When are you going to start listening to the people on the ground who know about these things. Email received December 30 2009 from. Dr Ueli Zellweger MRCVS GST TVL Somerset. After some 30 years as a country vet for cattle mainly I feel entitled to comment. . When a vet surgeon is called out to treat a cow or a whole herd of cattle it is vital that he finds the real cause of the trouble. Quite often this is an infection by a species of bacterium, virus, a mycosis or when there are parasites involved. It is common that there is a mix or environmental influences e.g. a draught in the calf shed. . It is the skill and experience of a successful vet to find the real diagnose and to treat or eliminate the very cause. Infections by bacteria are normally treated with antibiotics and disinfectants and subsequent preventing methods. If an infection is treated soon after starting success is most of the time quick and guaranteed. . Not so easy to treat are chronic infections. Bovine Tuberculosis (bTB) is in 99% of all cases a very chronic disease, mainly because of the extremely slow multiplying of these bacteria. Apart from bTB there are quite a number of other strains causing Tuberculosis like the human strain, the strain causing leprosy, the avian strain, Mycobacterium paratuberculosis (Johns disease) and others which are even harmless. There are a lot of vaccines against all kind of infections on the market. They normally give quite reliable results if administered correctly and in healthy animals (and humans). For Tuberculosis the common vaccine is the BCG which was found some 80 years ago and has been used to vaccinate healthy babies mainly. . BCG does not prevent an infection like all other vaccines; it just keeps it from becoming generalized, thus reducing the risk that the bacteria are swept into various other organs followed by massive excretion (coughing, urine, faeces, milk etc). There is scientific evidence that the efficiency of BCG is not more than 50 % and in a lot of countries it is therefore not used any longer. Any animal, group or herd of with bTB is a 'focus' and as long as such a focus is not eliminated it is a high risk for further infections. It is outrageous that these aspects are widely ignored by DEFRA for years now with absolutely no end in sight. In 2008 over 40,000 head of cattle reacting to bTB were slaughtered (10 % annual increase to be expected ) and nobody knows how many 10,000s of badgers and their setts are infected. Thus the infection within this most relevant wildlife reservoir is permanently growing including all its risks of infecting further cattle, other farm animals, pets and humans. Vaccinating badgers cannot be the solution for there are locally far too many badgers and setts infected and vaccinating cattle with BCG is in my view absolutely contraindicated for the only way of diagnosing bTB in cattle will be seriously compromised. DEFRA thinks to manage to develop a DIVA test thus being able to differentiate between a skin reaction caused by bTB and the one caused by BCG. It is unclear if such a test ever will reach permission or Europeanwide approbation; however there is a high risk that some countries will decide at some stage that they are not interested in any English beef products any longer when it cannot be guaranteed that there is no bTB. The routine bTB skin test alone in many cases is unreliable enough ( inconclusive or even false negative results ) and the Gamma Interferon bloodtest - apart from being expensive - is quite often hampered by some other influences. There definitely is no need of another uncertainty in this whole issue. It is horror for me to see how things are going the wrong way and every month some hundred more farms are starting suffering dramatically. It is not 5 minutes before noon to rethink this whole approach by DEFRA - politically steered as it is - NO it is half past noon and even with a quick U turn the future of battling bTB looks bleak.

    |   -14
  • ntol2  |  October 10 2012, 11:15AM

    Very, very true "Clued-up", a much of the blame is with the supermarkets, they must pay more for the milk, if there is damn all profit in the business animal husbandry and good practice are bound to fall, farmers cannot afford to pay for it and corners are cut. This is further being hindered by the potential growth of super-sized dairy farms which are currently in the pipe line and planning process, these mega intensive farms are only motivated by profit by squeezing as many cattle as possible into a very confined area, the result being able to sell to the supermarkets at an even cheaper rate, resulting in more traditional farms being completely squeezed out of the market, but whilst the process of bankruptcy is occuring standards will fall even more. The problem that is currently with us is that we have a government who are refusing to spend money on the correct answer to the problem and are hoodwinking farmers into believing that a cull is the answer, even though there is a very good chance it will make the situation worse.

    |   10
  • grannyonline1  |  October 10 2012, 10:48AM

    yet another culling trial!! In the past they have proved to be totally ineffective.The last culling trial proved that it was 84% ineffective to cull badgers! Its true, last year 26,000 cattle were culled due to TB, but that from a population of 10 million cattle, and 7 million TB tests on them.Thats a very small percentage affected.And although i certanly feel for the farmers having to have cattle destroyed,i will never cocncede culling badgers will stop it. As they dont even plan to test the badgers culled for TB, we will never know how many, IF ANY are infected ,i find that very unerving, they are hiding something.This is a political reaction to a problem thats needs solving,but culling badgers has been proved NOT to do that.

    |   17

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